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California : 2A • July 2-July 15, 2016

Sad Goodbyes

July 15, 2016

We can’t believe these two weeks have already come to an end. They have been filled with lots of safety dances, tesla talks, polar plunges, infinite laughs, and great company. The goodbyes felt like ripping a band aid off… but we are somewhat thankful for these feelings because sadness further reinforces how good of a time we all had. Although the fun came to an end today, contact info was shared and this groups relationships will stretch far past these two weeks. Let me fill you in on how we spent the last few days of the trip!
On Tuesday, we woke up to Sophia and Alex cooking us the best pancakes yet… I foresee some future chefs! They even accommodated to JT’s request of making a half-baked pancake and nailed it. We attempted to recreate Cameron’s fathers high rise pancakes (they sound delicious)… but I don’t think we made it to that level.. and didn’t exactly have an oven! We ventured to Muir Woods and began the exploring of the beautiful redwoods. If you didn’t know, they are the oldest living organism in the world! We were lucky enough to listen in on a park ranger giving us a lesson on all the aspects of the gorgeous trees. May and Elias were brave enough to ask her questions about the forest, and we ended up learning even more! Grace, Fiona, and Alex took a hilarious picture trying to hug one of the trees. We walked through the forest in awe at the size/beauty of the trees. Everyone said they had never seen anything like it! We stopped by the gift shop afterwards and the kids loaded up on some goodies. Rhett attempted to buy a baby tree to plant in his backyard but we convinced him out of it! We drove across the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge blasting our song… “The safety dance.” We had a great lunch (with a view) over the Golden Gate Bridge and afterwards walked over it. The group continued the search for Gary.. Parents, your children will explain this joke to you! We were all hysterically laughing. We spotted endless whales and sea lions over the bridge.. It was amazing! The group was memorized by the amount of whales overlooking the bridge. We also spotted 25 teslas while walking over the bridge and Rhett, along with the other boys, were very excited about it. The walk ended with a purchase of a golden gate chocolate bar and a few stickers reading “I walked the Golden Gate Bridge”… Do we sound like tourists yet? We headed back to camp and Alex, Grace, Hattie, and Fiona headed for a polar plunge in the ocean (in their clothes)! I took some incredible photos.. They did it right as the sun was setting, and it was a breathtaking view. They ran out of the ocean with cold bodies and headed straight towards the showers where they ran out of quarters for the showers. Thankfully, Sophia offered them some! Kathryn kindly helped carry all of the girls dry belongings from the beach back to camp. The night ended with some delicious s’mores and chatter around the camp fire.

On Wednesday, Walter and May lead the group and cooked oatmeal. They were great leaders to take us through the city! Walter also helped crunch up nature valley bars to sprinkle over the oatmeal to add a little flavor! We headed towards Pier 39 and the group shopped around for souvenirs to take home. We walked out to the end of the pier and spotted about 6 sea lions laying in the sun.. Super cool! Next, we fulfilled Graces dreams and went to the signature In N Out (fast food chain). We indulged on some burgers, fries, and of course, animal sauce. With satisfied stomachs, we boarded up the ferry to Angel Island. To say the least, it was beautiful. After walking around the island, we perched up on a bench overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. The group got a taste of the city! We headed back to camp and Elias made us his signature guacamole.. It was delicious (even though the avocados may or may not have been ripe)! We sat around the campfire until the night called our names to the tents.

Yesterday, we woke up full of energy knowing it was our last day. J.T. cooked the group some amazing ham and cheese biscuits and we loaded up the van to meet the surfing guides. We played the group songs the entire way there and anxiously awaited to see “instructor Alan dude.” Everyone caught some amazing waves and the weather couldn’t have been any better! Walter and Rhett we’re the last ones to come out of the water.. They were loving it! Fiona, Alex, JT, and I all decided to go body surfing after we had our fix of actual surfing.. We had a blast. Hattie, Cameron, and Kathryn all jumped right into the ocean to surf and also made some time to sit on the beach and cheer on everyone else. After surfing, the group said its sad goodbyes to “instructor Alan dude” and we went to thrift shopping! Cameron unknowingly purchased a pair of shoes that were $18…but laughed it off in the end! JT and Alex had full pajama outfits on, and Grace had her hair done in a way I’m not quite sure I can describe! These are only a few of the hilarious outfits. Next, we cleaned the van and discovered Sophia’s passion for vacuuming out cars. Hey, we were thankful! We headed back to camp to take showers and prepare for banquet. “The safety dance” played on loud as we pulled into a pizza place close by. Cameron pointed out how nice it was to be so thankful for the little things, such as others doing dishes.. and we all agreed. Being at dinner, we truly realized certain conveniences we take advantage of in everyday life. The van ride back to camp was filled with laughter and sadness at the realization of today’s reality. We gathered by the fire one last time and had our last moon-up.. Truthfully, it almost had me, along with LK and Reece, in tears. They can’t leave us!
With an early wakeup call and some doughnuts, we headed to the airport. We couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks with these 12 kids. It was truly amazing to see them get so close in such a short period of time. We will miss them dearly! Until next summer!

American River fun!

July 12, 2016

We have safely conquered the rapids of the American River…or in this group’s words, “the rapids of life.” Once again, we were blessed with some beautiful California skies, stellar guides, and of course, one heck of a group!

We arrived at our campsite (Camp Lotus) around 3 p.m. and immediately changed into bathing suits and starting playing in the river near our campsite. Cameron led the group into the water, and we sat on a few rocks in the middle chatting and messing around for hours. It was a blast! Meanwhile, May, Walter, LK, and Reece continued a very intense battle of card games…spades! May and Reece we’re a dream team and had a score they were very proud of. Later, Rhett and Kathryn helped cook some amazing fried rice. J.T.’s toleration for vegetables is continuing to grow, and we also learned that he enjoys his food soaked in soy sauce. We had some leftover fried rice and Rhett and practiced some great “leave no trace” skills by helping to finish off the dish. The night wrapped up with some hot chocolate (and marshmallows of course), moon-up, and excited conversations about the day ahead of us.

Yesterday, the group woke up ready to paddle! Cameron and Elias toasted bagels and cooked Canadian bacon for everyone… It was a great start to the day. We met the guides at 10 a.m., geared up, and hit the “rapids of life”! We had two boats: one boat was named “seven” with Alex, Grace, Elias, Rhett, Fiona, Hattie, LK, Cameron (our guide), and Addy. The other boat named themselves “wet-ones” due to the unlimited supply of wet wipes Sophia brought on the trip and lends out! Sophia, Walter, May, J.T., Kathryn, Cameron, Trey (the guide) and Reece were a part of that boat. The day consisted of on-going water fights, class 3 rapids, swimming through rapids, riddles, and some delicious food. We stopped for lunch on the river and the guides prepared a very elaborate sandwich spread… We felt like royalty! Elias raved about the white bread and avocados that they had. After lunch, the guides organized a cookie challenge which consisted of putting jelly on a cookie, sticking the cookie on your forehead, and trying to get the cookie from your forehead to your mouth without falling. Alex and Kathryn took the win on this one, and we have some hilarious pictures of their accomplishment! The class 3 rapids were back to back in the afternoon… Alex and Rhett held down the front of raft “seven,” and we’re the victims for getting absolutely soaked. They were troopers! Hattie encouraged everyone to get into the water whenever we were allowed to swim the rapids! Reece had his whole raft chanting “if you see the leprechaun say yeah!!” – a quote from his hometown, Mobile, AL. Sophia and Kathryn, trying to avoid the water by switching sides, failed. They were soaking but had big smiles on her face! Cameron, once again, embraced the day and the waves…complaint free. May informed us of her love for Jerry Jeff walker and her raft group agreed with her love!

The rafting for the day ended with some refreshing sodas and a 30 minute bus ride back to our campsite. Reece told us another riddle on the bus that had us all going crazy! We arrived back at camp and had a little snack… Pretzels and hummus! The guides brought us a game that basically involves two tin boxes and a rope. The object is to not fall off the boxes and let me just tell you, it’s harder than it seems! The guides cooked us an amazing hot dinner right at our campsite. Most of the kids saying “it was the best food we’ve had all trip,” and it was delicious! They also baked brownies that were cooked in a coal burning furnace for 2 hours… Some of the best brownies we’ve ever put in our mouth! They were devoured in minutes. We sat around the fire and had moon-up where we discussed our most embarrassing moments. Personally, I’ve never laughed so hard! Hattie’s hallmark story had us all on the ground laughing. We all headed to the tents to rest up for another day on the river!

Today, we woke up once again to another treat- the guides cooking breakfast for us. The group filled up on some eggs, bacon, potatoes, fruit, and cinnamon bread. Not a bad start to the day, I’d say! We loaded up a bus and drove to our rafting destination. The same rafting groups continued! Fiona took on the front of the raft, and we decided this was a great idea! She’s got form in her strokes and power! Walter and J.T. took on the front of the other boat with their go-pros strapped in. They took on the water, AND… got some incredible videos! Grace also took every opportunity she could to jump out of the raft…That’s what we like to see! Both groups conquered all the class 3 rapids not only safety, but also like champs! Our favorite was one known as “the hospital bar” because after it.. You either go to the hospital, or the bar- thankfully, we went to neither. We ate one last lunch that the outfitters prepared for us, took some hot showers at the outfitters shop, and loaded up to head to San Francisco! Alex has been calling it “the hurricane city” for reasons we still aren’t quite sure about. We are currently pulling into the foggy city, looking out the window at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz! Also, we just had a whale spotting! Tonight, we will camp at Half Moon Bay and look forward to the next few days in the city. Tomorrow, we venture to the beautiful Muir Woods and then walk the Golden Gate Bridge. We can’t believe it’s already the last few days of our trip, and all we have to say is… This city doesn’t know what’s coming! Until next time!

Addy, Reece & LK

California Stars

July 10, 2016

Lake Tahoe treated us well with some thrilling winds, gorgeous water, blue skies, and some of “the best nights of sleep” in everyone’s eno-hammocks. When we arrived at camp, the first thing on everyone’s minds were showers.. and then setting up enos. As we pulled up to the gate a sign was posted that read “no showers Tuesday and Thursday’s.” The kids, busy livin’ in the moment, quickly questioned what day it was. Yes, it was Thursday. Also, on this trip we decided to always say surprise instead of sorry so we slowly turned around saying “surpriseee!!”… They were not very amused at the moment! A few disappointed looks sparked throughout the van but May quickly chimed in reassuring everyone that showers would come tomorrow and everyone will be that much more thankful for them. Positive encouragement!! The group quickly agreed and decided to re-focus their energy on setting up their eno hammocks as closely together as possible. Reece helped set all the hammocks up and everyone happily sat in their hammocks laughing and expressing how excited they were to sleep in them. Fiona and Sophia helped cook ramen pad thai that night which was a huge hit throughout the group. Sophia, who had never tried ramen, announced her new found love for the noodles. While we were cooking, Fiona told us all about her love for Greek food and the different way of cooking it.. We were getting inspired! During dinner, J.T. expressed his gratitude that you could barely taste the vegetables in the dish.. We will thank the chefs for this! After dinner, we experimented with making chocolate pudding and let’s just say it didn’t turn out quite the way we wanted it to. Regardless, it turned out to be a highlight of the night and had everyone laughing hysterically. Rhett, once again, lost a bet and drank a spoonful and had a great reaction after doing so. The group piled into their Enos and the chatter didn’t last long before everyone was fast asleep.


On Friday, Laura Katherine and I woke everyone up with a little swing… What a better way to wake up? .. Friday fun-day! Grace and Hattie were our leaders of the day and helped everyone fill up their water bottles and get prepared for the day. We met the guides around 9:30 and informed us of the wind advisory for the day. We, as leaders, were slightly nervous for the day ahead but this group powered through the wind like superstars. There wasn’t even a complaint.. Just laughter. I’ll be honest, the wind made things much more challenging to paddle but it also added a whole new element of thrill to the experience. Kathryn and I were partners and her Florida water skills really shinned! She’s not only an amazing paddler, but also such a joy to be around with her positive attitude. Cameron and Reece were in another kayak and we had an all-day race going on. Cameron and Reece had some impressive and organized paddling skills! Rhett spent half of his energy paddling and the other half was spent trying to sell everybody on the idea of buying a tesla (type of car). Although Hattie felt a little under the weather, she powered through and took on her role as leader of the day by continuing to participate in all the activities and helping to clean up lunch. Alex and Sophia were partners in a kayak and smiled the whole time. We kayaked all around emerald bay, bracing through the wind, and docked them by a beach for lunch. Alex led the group in a polar plunge off the dock and their reaction after first jumping was priceless. I think it took the breath out of them but they said “it felt like a refreshing shower”… Considering (at this point) they were going on day 6 with no shower. The kayak back was much easier because the wind was working with us, not against us. Elias and the kayak guide stopped to help a boat that had broken down and helped them call extra help.. That’s what we call great expedition behavior! When we arrived back, Walter helped everyone carry the kayaks a little ways up the hill and we introduced a game known as “mafia.” This is a game that certainly brings out everyone’s true character. For those of you who are unaware of what “mafia” is.. it is similar to a detective game but involves the whole group trying to solve a mystery. We discovered Cameron’s inability to lie.. Which is a good thing! We also discovered how Elias and J.T have trouble keeping things discrete and how good Fiona is at being the “mafia.” After kayaking and mafia, we surprised the group with some ice cream.. The line was super long but well worth it- $4 gets you an ice cream the size of your face… Talk about a deal! Hattie ended up not only eating her coffee ice cream… But also sticking it directly into her face… It gave us all a great laugh! We headed back to camp for… SHOWERS! After everyone was clean and feeling “like a new person”… We indulged on some mac & cheese. Sophia said it was her favorite meal of the trip! Success! We proposed the question of “What is your guilty pleasure?”… May took the win on this answer by saying “I really like to take peanuts out of the netted bags at the whole foods in NOLA, lick the salt off of them, and then put them back”… The whole group took the answer in for a second, started hysterically laughing, and then made a group consensus to never but netted peanuts again! It was the greatest guilty pleasure answer we’ve ever heard! We had moon up surrounding the fire and everyone crawled into their Enos once again!


We woke up bright and early today (Saturday), packed up camp, and headed to meet the guides for some paddle boarding. The boys started a water war and it ended in some serious paddling trying to get away from them. Elias and Grace managed to do the best at this task as they managed to stay pretty dry! Walter did pretty well with staying dry until Reece sneakily got him in the water. All the girls stopped for a little break on the beach to have some girl bonding time! After, we filled up on some sandwiches and pilled in the van to head towards the American river for some rafting! Bring the rapids on.. This group is ready! We will keep you all posted with how the river treats us.. Let the good times keep rollin’!!



July 7, 2016

Wow… In between hiking, rock climbing, and taking polar plunges, this group has certainly jumped right into things. The van ride into Yosemite (from surfing) was filled with Elias demonstrating his extremely awesome noises he can make with his mouth… It was hilarious! As we started getting close to Yosemite… eyes started to be glued towards the windows. We were driving in around sunset and looking outside at the beautiful mountains and nature in awe. Rhett pointed out the first sighting of snow saying “We should go skiing!!!” and the whole crew started laughing. That night, during moon up, we sat in a circle looking up at the stars… Truthfully, I’ve never seen anything like them. J.T. pointed out the first shooting star of the trip and ended up being distracted for the rest of the night trying to spot another one.

We woke up on Monday (July 4th) with full energy! Blue and red tie-dye pancakes were cooked by Kathryn (LK taught them to make the perfect pancakes)… who were also our LODs for the day. This was the perfect start to our day, considering we had a 5 mile hike ahead. After breakfast, we lathered on the red, white, and blue face paint. Let me tell you… We were spirited! J.T. painted his entire face and by the end of the hike… sweat had taken off most of it. Grace also had some incredible face art with American flags painted under her eyes. Bleeding America colors, the group loaded up in the van and headed towards the trail. Kathryn led the group, setting a beautiful pace, and the rest of the group followed. The hike was filled with many interesting conversations… anywhere from expanding on our previous pet peeve talk to what position someone played on their sports team. We also had the question “What time is it?” pop up quite a bit and LK challenged them to the idea that if they could come up with a logical reason why they should know the time…we will tell them. They have yet to come up with one…and also stopped trying. Livin’ in the moment! We ended the day with a 4th of July cook out and some s’mores surrounding a fire. Perfect end to the day… Right?

We woke up bright and early on Tuesday ready to climb the rocks of Yo-yo-semite! The day started off with everyone repelling… Which was amazing? It can be a pretty scary thing but everyone stepped up to the plate and faced the challenge. May was the first girl to go and Grace was super nervous but that didn’t stop her from trying. After everyone repelled… The climbing began! Before I could even get the camera out, Fiona was at the top. Walter quickly followed her lead and was conquering every climb they offered. Cameron’s sweet self also scurried up the rock seeming to have zero fear. Later in the day, we looked over and Grace had her full body pressed to the rock saying she was ‘chilling’… She found her peace with the rock! It had us all laughing. After her ‘chill’ session she worked through her “no arm strength” and learned how much strength she actually has! Rhett had the whole crew giggling when he started yelling “no!!!!” because of a stuck foot… Which he quickly figured his way out of! By the end of the day, everyone was satisfied with what they had accomplished and learned that day. We headed back to camp and went straight to the lake for a polar plunge. Sophia and Alex were the ring leaders and jumped right in… Fiona and Elias quickly followed. The rest of the group continued their intense spades game back at camp and they are still trying to teach me! The game takes so much focus. Cameron and Reece were a dream team during spades… Cameron and J.T. brought the night to an end by cooking some incredible pesto pasta… It was a group hit!

Day two of rock climbing was even more exciting. Elias and Alex were our leaders of the day and helped serve oatmeal to everyone. Once again, Fiona was up and down the rock in record timing. Walter and Sophia were the last ones down from the rock and managed to do every climbing route the guides offered! Elias didn’t want to climb very much but after everyone started chanting his name loudly he rallied to the occasion! He ended up climbing straight up to the top with no problem. It was pretty amazing. We discovered J.T.s hilarious talent of being able to imitate movie quotes and personally, he had me crying laughing for half the day. Rhett was a superstar today… He would climb and then offer everyone an extra hand with belaying. To say the least, it was a very exciting day. Hattie and Alex offered to carry extra ropes along with extra group food down the mountain… great EB (expedition behavior)! After we climbed, we decided to surprise the group with a little ice cream stop at a local store nearby. Kathryn indulged on her favorite (a milkshake without whip cream!). When we got back to camp everyone decided to go to the lake and enjoy the sand and cold water. They were calling it a shower! That evening we had a race that ended in us learning to not ever challenge Walter in a running race. I didn’t participate in the first one but decided to personally take on Walter after he won… It was a mistake. We started a dance party in the middle of camp… Cameron has some moves! We decided that “The safety dance” is our theme song/dance of the trip. We all starting plotting a future flash-mob dance for airport day. Kathryn offered some hilarious dance moves to start off the dance. Elias took the initiative of making guacamole… His favorite! He set it out as an appetizer for everyone and it was devoured…we have now established him as “The guac màn!” We went to bed with full stomachs and sad hearts with the realization that it was already our last night in Yosemite… But also happy hearts that the next day we were heading to Lake Tahoe!

We are in route to Lake Tahoe where we will take a hike, set up camp, take a few (well-deserved) showers, and prepare for the next two days of kayaking/paddle-boarding! Also, Rhett lost a little bet and currently has his face fully painted in red, white, and blue… 4th of July has not ended with this group yet! We will report back with the fun memories ahead!



Surf's Up!

July 4, 2016

The ‘Moondancers’ are in full swing, and we couldn’t be more excited about this crew! It didn’t take long to realize this was going to great trip. May immediately recognized our theme artist for the summer…The Dixie Chicks! Yes, by the end of the trip they will have the lyrics memorized.. Or at least.. We hope! Walter immediately jumped into things with his upbeat and positive attitude. He helped everyone else feel super comfortable and at home (including us as leaders). What a quality to have! We headed towards Half Moon Bay, and indulged in some savory cheese and pepperoni pizzzzzzzà from a local store nearby. We quickly learned that Grace dislikes cheese… but is completely happy with bread and sauce. Hey, we love the attitude! After some full stomachs, we set up our new homes (tents) and played some games/cards. Reece and LK taught everyone how to play spades and now they are anxiously asking about the next time they can play. Meanwhile, we proposed the question “What’s your biggest pet peeve?”… Kathryn had us all laughing at her answer “When people put whip-cream on my milkshakes.” We took this as a note to ourselves and respected the girl for how specific her answer was.. It was awesome! (To be honest.. Couldn’t agree more) Rhett put forth some great standards by answering with “When people don’t take their shoes off before they get in the tent”… Brilliant! Later, we had our first ‘moon-up’. For those of you who are unaware of what this is, it’s a circle we sit in each night to reflect on the day and get to know everyone in the group on a different level. For most people, it’s a favorite part about the trip. The ‘Moondance family’ truly began to sprout last night.

May and Walter were chosen to be our first leaders of the day. They did an amazing job today with waking the group up, keeping everyone’s spirits high, and encouraging everyone to surf. Elias came out of the tent smiling today and let me tell you, it didn’t stop all day! Cameron was the first one to finish packing her things up. This is actually very impressive considering how tough this can be on the first day. Surfing rocked our world!! (Literally and physically). The waves were intense today, only making things even more exciting. We also had Hayes, the owner of Moondance, and his daughter, Hunter, join us today which was a huge treat. The kids loved getting to know both of them! Hattie had a little trouble carrying the surfboard across the rocks but when asked if she needed help she denied it. She was on a mission!! Alex was a natural surfer and I personally watched her catch 3 rockin’ waves! Rhett was the last person to come in from surfing. I could see a future career path for him. He didn’t even take one break! J.T. also did an amazing job at surfing. He’s got the form down. He was out taking full advantage of what the surfing guides had to say. Fiona was stylin’ and profilin’ today in her camouflage shorts (I warned her they may mysteriously disappear by the end of the trip.. Just kidding) and she nicely helped everyone rinse off their wet suits after surfing. We call this award-winning ‘expedition behavior’ (EB)! After surfing, we ate some well deserved sandwiches and Sophia and Kathryn discovered a new liking for wheat bread. They ended up “actually liking it.” Off to a great start, I would say! We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the 4th of July with this crew! We’re in route to Yosemite. Personally, I don’t think we could ask for a better place to celebrate the one and only: ‘Merica!! We will be doing some hiking and rock climbing the next few days and look forward to reporting back with more exciting stories. Happy Fourth of July and until next time! We posted some shout outs below.



May- Surfing was something I had never experienced, and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t really good at it so I chose to stop but Addy pushed me to get back in the water. Being from NOLA, it sure was cold but delightful.

J.T.- I was very excited for surfing and when I got in the water it was freezing! I got on my board and caught a couple waves and loved it! I can’t wait for surfing again on the last day. Miss you guys so much! Love you!

Rhett- I was very happy when I was surfing.8 had a great time. The water was super cold. It was really fun. I miss you a lot!

Grace- I had a lot of fun surfing! It was so cold. Tell Ally I said hey. I love y’all so much! Miss y’all!

Hattie- Surfing was freezing but fun! I’m not very good at balancing. It was fun though. Love y’all and miss y’all!

Walter- Surfing was incredible. The wetsuit helped with the chilly water, but the waves were well worth it. Love you..  see you in 2 weeks.

Elias- First two days were amazing. None of the activities have failed to put a smile on my face. Send love to Atticus, Pup Pup, and Silas. See y’all in two weeks!

Sophia- We are going to Yosemite today. I miss you so much mom and dad. Can’t wait to see you guys.

Fiona- Having fun! It’s a little cold but I’m good. We went surfing today! Miss you.

Kathryn- Today we went surfing. It was fun!  I body surfed and j most fell. Miss you mom and dad.

Cameron- We went surfing today and it was really fun- love y’all lots!